SsangYong is the least known of the Korean car brands on sale in Ireland. While Hyundai/KIA run away with the all the kudos, SsangYong is fighting hard to establish itself as a serious contender and in truth it will be years before it can come anyway near the two in terms of sales.
SsangYong, which translates as double dragons, has a good reputation in the commercial vehicle world but up until recently its vehicles have been at best average and at worst agricultural. With a history dating back to 1954, SsangYong evolved from two firms to become Korea’s fourth largest auto maker. In the early nineties a deal with Daimler-Benz saw technologies shared to develop the Musso and Mercedes engines and gearboxes were used in other SsangYongs too. At the end of the century Daewoo dabbled in ownership but sold its shares off within a couple of years. Chinese auto giant SAIC got in on the action in the mid noughties but again it didn’t work out and by 2010 a new Knight on a white steed rode in. Today the huge Mahindra & Mahindra group owns the controlling chunk of SsangYong Motor.
The budget value for money brand is slowly eating in to the Irish market with some names that you may never have heard of like Tivoli, Korando, Korando Sports, Rexton and Rodius. Tivoli XLV is the most recent crossover to join the range and with prices starting from €24,750 it is a lot of car for relatively little money. Expanding on the impressive Tivoli the XLV is a longer machine that has been extended from the C pillar back. XLV should come as a seven seater but it doesn’t. The Ireland importer (Harris Group) is marketing it as a five seat Tivoli with a huge boot. 574 litres of boot space (720 litres without a spare wheel) is impressive and there is even more cargo space available with the rear 60/40 seats down. The roofline is higher and the car has an all road, high rise estate sort of look to it. Exterior styling is not bad if a little confusing for badge snobs.
Inside there is plenty of space and headroom. Lots of kit comes as standard like air con, Bluetooth and parking sensors and there are plenty of stowage spots including a huge centre storage bin.
Under the bonnet there is a 115hp/300Nm turbocharged 1.6 litre EURO6 diesel paired to a manual six-speed as standard with ISG (idle stop and go) technology or for a premium you can get a six-speed automatic. Two and four wheel drive versions are available too.
Driving XLV is a functional experience. Tivoli is the firm’s best car yet and XLV shares the same 2600mm wheelbase that gives it a more comfortable ride. The manual gearbox was at times less than cooperative and from a standing start we needed to keep the revs up a bit to avoid stalling. In gear acceleration feels brisk thanks to all that 300Nm torque.
Three trim levels exists namely the entry ES and mid spec EL (from €28,995). Both are 4X2 front wheel drive form with auto an option on the ES (€32,750). The range topper is the AWD all wheel drive EI manual at €31,495.
Tivoli XLV is a budget offering that is big on interior space.